The 66th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) met at Reformed Bible College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 2-9, 1999. The Rev. Larry G. Mininger, Pastor of Lake Sherwood OPC, Orlando, Florida, was elected Moderator.
Statistics reveal that the denomination grew to 24,413 total membership by the end of 1998, an increase of 4.43 percent. Total giving was up 11.4 percent, to $26.8 million. There were 199 local congregations at the end of the year.
Though a relatively small denomination, the OPC has always had a world-wide focus on the church and interchurch relations. The OPC enjoys Ecclesiastical Fellowship with eleven churches: the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Christian Reformed Church in the Netherlands, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ireland, the Free Church of Scotland, the Presbyterian Church in Korea (Kosin), the Presbyterian Church in America, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland, the Reformed Church in Japan, the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, the Reformed Church in the United States, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. Corresponding Relationship is maintained with five more churches: Africa Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in Uganda, United Reformed Churches in North America, the Church of Christ in the Sudan Among the Tiv (Nigeria), and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated).
The Assembly invited the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales to enter into a corresponding relationship. The Assembly also invited the Bible Presbyterian Church (BPC) to send an official observer to the 67th OPC Assembly, and expressed the desire to have observers at the BPC's 2000 General Synod. The OPC also requested the BPC's 1999 General Synod to appoint representatives of its Interchurch Relations Committee to meet with representatives of its OPC counterpart for the specific purpose of seeking to identify where the BPC perspective on ecclesiastical separation differs from the OPC.
Efforts to effect formal unity with the Canadian Reformed Federation were suspended, because of actions taken by the Federation's General Synod-Fergus regarding matters related to the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic. Talks will resume only when there is evidence of progress in removing an offense.
The Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations was authorized to send an observer to Synod 2000 of the Christian Reformed Church of North America-the Synod which will review the decision to open all church offices to women. The OPC severed fraternal ties with the CRCNA in 1997 because of the decision by the Dutch immigrant denomination in 1995 to allow the ordination of women to ruling and teaching office in the church. The OPC Assembly authorized a letter to be sent to the Reformed Church of Japan, with respect to the issue of women in teaching and ruling office, which is before their Assembly this fall.
The Assembly elected a four-man committee to prepare proof texts for the Westminster Larger Catechism.
The Rev. George Cottenden presented the report of the Committee on Revisions to the Directory for Public Worship, which has been working on revision for a decade. A complete draft of the revisions is being sent to the lower courts (presbyteries and sessions) for study. Comments are to be received by November 30, 1999. It is expected that next year's Assembly will be asked to adopt the report which the Committee will submit at that time.
Great Commission Publications, a joint venture between the OPC and the Presbyterian Church in America, continues to market both the original and the revised version of the Trinity Hymnal. The proposed Trinity Songbook will not be produced at this time and in its present form.
The Assembly gave its blessing to the formation of a new presbytery, to be called the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario.
The Assembly took the action necessary to allow the Committee on Foreign Missions to enter into special relationships with presbyteries or sessions with respect to non-ordained as well as ordained missionaries.
Dr. James Gidley and Dr. James Thomas presented a report on the formation of the OPC Ministerial Training Institute. Courses to be offered this fall were: "The History, Character, and Distinguishing Commitments of the OPC," "Presbyterian Church Polity, with Special Emphasis on the Book of Church Order of the OPC," and "The Westminster Standards."
The Assembly considered requests from several presbyteries for exception to certain educational requirements of the Form of Government so that men might be licensed or ordained. In one case, which consumed considerable time, the Assembly turned down the request. The court approved the others.
The Rev. Dr. George Knight presented the report of the Committee on Women in the Military and in Combat. The report included several sections: Moral Basis, Foundational Principles of Sexual Distinctions, God's Commands as our Example, Learning from Deborah, and New Testament following the Old Testament Foundational Teachings, and Conclusions. The court finally decided to recommit the entire report, with all the motions that were made, back to the Committee to develop further the Biblical basis for the report and its recommendations. The Moderator was authorized to add two members to the Committee.
This failure to adopt any statement regarding women in combat and in the military, elicited the only protest entered on the minutes this year. Almost 50 of the approximately 135 commissioners signed this protest.
The 67th OPC General Assembly is slated to meet at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington, from July 5 to July 12, 2000.